on Integrating Technology
into Computer Science Education

Working Group 7

Perspectives on innovations in the computing curriculum



Rapid changes in computing often motivate educators to introduce innovations in the curriculum and the classroom. The haste to do something new or adopt some current fad can cause teachers to overlook their adverse effects on students and the profession. The deployment of curricular or pedagogic innovations such as new languages and technologies may seem appropriate, but mistakes are costly. History is the best teacher to assess the worthiness of new ideas or products. The working group will investigate these issues, document cases where professionals ignored history, and develop guidelines to avoid pitfalls when making innovations in curriculum or pedagogy.


Fast-paced changes in the computing field have motivated many computing educators to consider innovations into the curriculum. However, in the haste to adopt an innovation one may overlook its adverse effect on students and the profession.

Today, computing educators must wrestle with many new ideas and technologies. This includes new programming languages, new uses of the Internet, promoting non-traditional learning, dealing with new computer technologies, and teaching in new classroom environments. One must carefully avoid placing absolute credence in immature technologies or insufficiently tested novelties. History is the best teacher to assess the worthiness of products or innovations. Computing educators owe their institutions and society, and most of all their students, the professional responsibility of including only proven elements rather than current fads in the classroom and curriculum. To err in this instance is deleterious, fiscally unsound, ethically unjust, and harmful to the computing profession.


The purpose of this working group is to exchange ideas on how innovations affect, both negatively and positively, the computing classroom and curriculum. The use of historical and background information is paramount to the discussions so that fact can support opinion. The working group will focus on the broad philosophical issues of a computing curriculum and the various components that make up that curriculum. These components include the classroom environment, emerging technologies, language vehicles, and the syllabi of courses.

Consider the classroom environment; function follows form. All details, from the shape and mobility of the desks to the computer-based technologies used, are important to the learning environment. For example, collaborative activities are often difficult in a classroom where desks and chairs are bolted to the floor. To this end, this working group will examine various instructional innovations that support the pedagogic models appropriate to computer science instruction. Augmenting a classroom with additional instructional technology is expensive. Since mistakes are so costly, having a clear understanding of which instructional innovation should be included in the curriculum is very important.


The action plan for this working group is as follows. The goal of this working group is to produce a document which will serve as a starting point for any future discussion or project that includes innovations in the computing curriculum. To be useful the document must include a brief description of the various instructional innovations available, where they have successfully improved computer science instruction, and where they have failed to live up to their promise. Many institutions, departments, or programs are essentially conducting trial-and-error experiments to learn which instructional innovations are useful to computer science educators and which changes are not. The working group, through its published paper, will seek to act as a vehicle to widely distribute some newly collected wisdom on this topic.

Each member of the working group is expected to research extensively a topic of innovation before the conference itself. This research would involve a deep familiarization with the topic, documentation of the experiences, and a summary of its impact on the computer science curriculum. Members should bring to the session abbreviated copies of historical facts, reports, citations, and other material that support the topic of the session. During the conference itself, the working group will focus its energies toward two tasks. The first task is a pedagogic dialog on the topics researched. This will naturally follow as each member reports on his or her findings. Additionally, this dialog will serve to focus the thinking of each member toward the curriculum issues they did not research and to create a group consensus toward each of the examined issues. The second task is an outgrowth of the first. It is the creation of the final document described above.

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Last modified: Wednesday February 19 14:16:49 MET 1997